The RACGP has announced its 2023 post-academic cohort, as well as increased support for GPs pursuing a PhD.
The Department of Health and Elderly Care (DoH) has approved a RACGP proposal to establish a specialized academic PhD post path for general practitioners in training.
The new development means that junior doctors who are already pursuing a PhD or have a strong interest in pursuing a PhD have a clearer path to graduation, after previous research has shown a disconnect between general practice and other specialties.
Some studies also cite a lack of awareness of the potential to engage in general practice science, leading physicians interested in pursuing a clinical academic career to choose specialties other than general practice.
However, the new DoH endorsement means the RACGP can formalize the pathway for the 2024 academic post cohort, where up to two academic PhD positions will be awarded among the 20 total positions per year.
The new RACGP fellow and academic postgraduate 2018, Dr. Dan Epstein, recently completed his PhD and previously advocated for better ways to support GPs in education.
“It was a great experience,” he said NewsGP. “I was able to use my post to educate myself in research and think about complex problems by asking and answering questions I had developed during my clinical work.
‘[But] There is no real financial career incentive for GPs to pursue a PhD, which differs slightly from other hospital specialties.
“That’s why clear pathways are important to provide expertise in primary care research, which is where most of the medicine actually happens, but the [fewest amount of] Researcher-clinicians exist.
“The academic position can be a great simple test to see if you are interested in research and teaching and can give you the skills and contacts to start a PhD if you choose to do so afterwards.”
Participants in the new degree will be enrolled in a PhD concurrently with the AGPT Academic Post Program and will use their position to continue their PhD studies. Successful applicants focus primarily on research and have fewer or no teaching commitments.
And because general medicine is such a broad medical specialty, the research topics can be very diverse – as Dr. Epstein’s own left-of-center promotion confirmed.
“It breaks through different areas from pandemics, behavioral economics and even game design,” he explained.
“I conducted a randomized controlled trial using a table card game I developed to incentivize and educate children about vaccines and build confidence in vaccines. It has been an amazing experience for me to improve my skills, think about behavior change and work on effective work.
dr Dan Epstein, who recently completed both his academic career and his PhD.
dr Epstein began his project before the onset of COVID and found that once the pandemic began, he could rely on his existing skills as a clinician/researcher in the field.
“I found myself very useful and had interesting conversations and was involved early in the response to the pandemic with government and industry teams…it was really interesting work,” he said.
Successful applicants for the 2023 Academic Post Program, which runs from January 2023 to January 2024, were recently announced. Recipients will design their own individual research plans and learning programs based on their interests, with the 2023 cohort spanning a wide range of clinical topics.
for dr Epstein plans to continue to draw on his academic position and experiences as a graduate student to inform his future activities to improve clinical decision making.
“I am very interested in developing and implementing innovative methods to improve behavior, critical thinking and decision-making,” he said.
“So I’m going to spend time working on some tools to improve institutional decision-making. This is a bit broader than the healthcare context, but an interest in how choices affect our health is what led me on this path.
“I always come up with interesting questions — that’s the easy part, figuring out how to examine them and answer them is the hard part.”
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